Think twice before bypassing campfire bans, flying drones or recreational boats near wildfires this weekend as firefighters work on the frontlines of more than 300 blazes burning across B.C.
That’s the message from the province to campers and outdoor enthusiasts, who are being asked to avoid the top three most common issues that either cause fires or prevent the experts from fighting them.
“The men and women of the BC Wildfire Service are working long hours in sometimes very difficult conditions, so I’m asking everyone to do their part to prevent wildfires and not add to their workload,” Forestry Minister Doug Donaldson said.
So far this year, BC Wildfire Service personnel have responded to 1,260 wildfires. About 340 of those, or 27 per cent, were caused by people.
In recent days, a long hot streak was met by lightning storms that sparked more than 130 wildfires Wednesday. There are currently 10 major wildfires burning in the Okanagan, Cariboo and North.
Anyone found breaking the bans can be issued a violation ticket for $1,150 and may be required to pay an administrative penalty of $10,000. If convicted in court, the fine can reach up to $100,000 and and paired with a one-year jail sentence.
If breaking the rules cause or contributes to a wildfire, the person responsible may be ordered to pay all firefighting and associated costs.
Drone operators and recreational boaters are also being asked to stay clear of areas classified as “active work sites” for fire crews. Interference with their efforts could result in large fines, or even jail time.
“When airtankers or helicopters are working around wildfires or picking up water from nearby lakes, they need lots of room to manoeuvre,” said Donaldson. “People who get in the way pose a serious safety risk for the air crews and anyone else in the area. They also cause delays in getting fires under control.”
To report a wildfire or open-burning violation, call 1 800 663-5555 toll-free, or *5555 on a cellphone.